Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948) was a United States wildlife biologist and conservationist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1949), which has sold more than two million copies.
- 1.4A Sand County Almanac, 1949
- 1.4.2"January Thaw", "February: Good Oak" & "March: The Geese Return"
- 1.4.3"April: Come High Water," "April: Draba," "April: Bur Oak," & "April:Sky Dance"
- 1.4.4"May: Back from the Argentine," "June: The Alder Fork," "July: Great Possessions," and "July: Prairie Birthday"
- 1.4.5"August: The Green Pasture," "September: The Choral Copse," "October: Smoky Gold," and "October: Red Lanterns"
- 1.4.6"November: Axe-in-Hand," "November: A Mighty Fortress," and "December: Pines above the Snow"
- 1.4.7"Wisconsin: Marshland Elegy," "Wisconsin: The Sand Counties" "Wisconsin: On a Monument to the Pigeon," and "Wisconsin: Flambeau"
- 1.4.8"Illinois and Iowa: Red Legs Kicking," "Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain,"
- 1.4.9"Arizona and New Mexico: On Top," & "Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain"
- 1.4.10"Chihuahua and Sonora: The Green Lagoons"
- 1.4.11Manitoba: Clandeboye
- 1.4.12"Conservation Esthetic"
- 1.4.13"Wildlife in American Culture"
- 1.4.15"The Land Ethic"
- 3External links
- Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.
- "A Man's Leisure Time," 1920; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 8.
- Six days shalt thou paddle and pack, but on the seventh thou shall wash thy socks.
- "Canada, 1924"; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 54.
- Our new camp is on a windswept rock point. … We don't know what lake we're on, and don't care ...
- "Canada, 1925"; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 67.
- Many of the attributes most distinctive of America and Americans are the impress of the wilderness. … Shall we now exterminate this thing that made us Americans?
- "Wilderness as a Form of Land Use" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 137-138.
- Do we realize that industry, which has been our good servant, might make a poor master?
- "A Plea for Wilderness Hunting Grounds" ; Published in Aldo Leopold's Southwest, David E. Brown and Neil B. Carmony (eds.) 1990 , p. 160.
- Patriotism requires less and less of making the eagle scream, but more and more of making him think.
- "The Home Builder Conserves" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 147.
- What to do? I see only two courses open to the likes of us. One is to go live on locusts in the wilderness, if there is any wilderness left. The other is surreptitiously to set up within the economic Juggernaut certain new cogs and wheels whereby the residual love of nature, inherent even in Rotarians, may be made to recreate at least a fraction of those values which their love of "progress" is destroying. A briefer way to put it is: if we want Mr. Babbitt to rebuild outdoor America, we must let him use the same tools wherewith he destroyed it. He knows no other.
- "Game and Wild Life Conservation" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 165-166.
- What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and, by cautious experimentation, to prove how it works? What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?
- "Grand-Opera Game" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 172.
- Bread and beauty grow best together. Their harmonious integration can make farming not only a business but an art; the land not only a food-factory but an instrument for self-expression, on which each can play music to his own choosing.
- "The Conservation Ethic" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 191.
- [After describing a hopper for feeding winter game:] If you think you're too old to enjoy building such contraptions — that only Boy Scouts get a kick out of such nonsense — just try it. You may end up by building several.
- radio talk "Feed Early to Keep Game at Home", 2 November 1933.
- It can be stated as a sober fact that the iron-heel attitude has already reduced by half the ability of Wisconsin to support a cooperative community of men, animals, and plants during the next century. Moreover, it has saddled us with a repair bill, the magnitude of which we are just beginning to appreciate. If some foreign invader attempted such loot, the whole nation would resist to the last man and the last dollar. But as long as we loot ourselves, we charge the indignity to 'rugged individualism', and try to forget it.
- "The Arboretum and the University" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 210.
- Relegating conservation to government is like relegating virtue to the Sabbath. Turns over to professionals what should be daily work of amateurs.
- Lecture notes ms. (c. 1935); as quoted in: Curt D. Meine, Richard L. Knight (1999) The Essential Aldo Leopold: Quotations and Commentaries. p. 162.
- We are touring the Ozarks. Here is an abandoned field in which the ragweed is sparse and short. Does this tell us anything about why the mortgage was foreclosed? About how long ago? Would this field be a good place to look for quail? Does short ragweed have any connection with the human story behind yonder graveyard? If all the ragweed in this watershed were short, would that tell us anything about the future of floods in the steam? About the future prospects for bass or trout?
- "Natural History: The Forgotten Science" ; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 62.
- Modern natural history deals only incidentally with the identity of plants and animals, and only incidentally with their habits and behaviors. It deals principally with their relations to each other, their relation to the soil and water in which they grow, and their relations to the human beings who sing about 'my country' but see little or nothing of its inner workings. This new science of relationships is called ecology, but what we call it matters nothing. The question is, does the educated citizen know he is only a cog in an ecological mechanism? That if he will work with that mechanism his mental wealth and his material wealth can expand indefinitely? But that if he refuses to work with it, it will ultimately grind him to dust? If education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?
- "Natural History: The Forgotten Science" ; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 63-64.
- A profession is a body of men who voluntarily measure their work by a higher standard than their clients demand. To be professionally acceptable, a policy must be sound as well as salable. Wildlife administration, in this respect, is not yet a profession.
- "Chukaremia" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 246.
- The oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.
- "Engineering and Conservation" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 254.
- Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. … Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. The land is one organism.
- "Conservation" (c. 1938); Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 145-146.
- The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciation how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.
- "Conservation" (c. 1938); Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 146-147.
- We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive. … The problem, then, is how to bring about a striving for harmony with land among a people many of whom have forgotten there is any such thing as land, among whom education and culture have become almost synonymous with landlessness. This is the problem of 'conservation education'.
- "Conservation" (c. 1938); Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 155.
- What conservation education must build is an ethical underpinning for land economics and a universal curiosity to understand the land mechanism. Conservation may then follow.
- "Conservation" (c. 1938); Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 157.
- Ideas, like men, can become dictators. We Americans have so far escaped regimentation by our rulers, but have we escaped regimentation by our own ideas? I doubt if there exists today a more complete regimentation of the human mind than that accomplished by our self-imposed doctrine of ruthless utilitarianism.
- "The Farmer as a Conservationist" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 259.
- The landscape of any farm is the owner's portrait of himself.
- "The Farmer as a Conservationist" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 263.
- Wildflower corners are easy to maintain, but once gone, they are hard to rebuild.
- "Wildflower Corners" ; Published in For the Health of the Land, J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle (eds.), 1999, p. 123.
Game Management, 1933
Leopold's 1933 textbook.
- We stand guard over works of art, but species representing the work of aeons are stolen from under our noses.
- Hunting for sport is an improvement over hunting for food, in that there has been added to the test of skill and ethical code, which the hunter formulates for himself, and must live up to without the moral support of bystanders.
- Chapter XVI, "Game Economics and Esthetics", p. 391.
- No farmer-sportsman group is stronger than the ties of mutual confidence and enthusiasm which bind its members.
- "History of the Riley Game Cooperative, 1931-1939" ; Published in For the Health of the Land, J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle (eds.), 1999, p. 189.
- Only economists mistake physical opulence for riches.
- "Country" ; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 31.
- There are those who are willing to be herded in droves through 'scenic' places; who find mountains grand if they be proper mountains, with waterfalls, cliffs, and lakes. To such the Kansas plains are tedious. They see the endless corn, but not the heave and grunt of ox teams breaking the prairie. History, for them, grows on campuses. They look at the low horizon, but they cannot see it, as de Vaca did, under the bellies of the buffalo.
- "Country" ; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 32-33.
- Any prairie farm can have a library of prairie plants, for they are drought-proof and fire-proof, and are content with any roadside, rocky knoll, or sandy hillside not needed for cow or plow. Unlike books, which divulge their meaning only when you dig for it, the prairie plants yearly repeat their story, in technicolor, from the first pale blooms of pasque in April to the wine-red plumes of bluestem in the fall. All but the blind may read, and gather from the reading new lessons in the meaning of America.
- "Roadside Prairies" ; Published in For the Health of the Land, J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle (eds.), 1999, p. 138.
- Every region should retain representative samples of its original or wilderness condition, to serve science as a sample of normality. Just as doctors must study healthy people to understand disease, so must the land sciences study the wilderness to understand disorders of the land-mechanism.
- "Planning for Wildlife" ; Published in For the Health of the Land, J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle (eds.), 1999, p. 197.
- How would you like to have a thousand brilliantly colored cliff swallows keeping house in the eaves of your barn, and gobbling up insects over your farm at the rate of 100,000 per day? There are many Wisconsin farmsteads where such a swallow-show is a distinct possibility.
- "Cliff Swallows to Order" ; Published in For the Health of the Land, J. Baird Callicott and Eric T. Freyfogle (eds.), 1999, p. 119.
- [This book] has done well to preserve this saga of how the state was made safe for cows. How the state is to be made safe from cows is a saga yet to be written.
- "Review of Meet Mr. Grizzly by Montague Stevens" ; Published in Aldo Leopold's Southwest, David E. Brown and Neil B. Carmony (eds.) 1990, p. 220.
- I personally believed, at least in 1914 when predator control began, that there could not be too much horned game, and that the extirpation of predators was a reasonable price to pay for better big game hunting. Some of us have learned since the tragic error of such a view, and acknowledged our mistake. One must judge from the present volume that the Fish and Wildlife Service does not see any mistake.
- "Review of The Wolves of North America by Stanley P. Young and Edward A. Goldman" ; Published in Aldo Leopold's Southwest, David E. Brown and Neil B. Carmony (eds.) 1990 , p. 226.
- That the situation is hopeless should not prevent us from doing our best.
- letter to Bill Vogt, 21 January 1946, quoted in Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work, p. 478.
- Once you learn to read the land, I have no fear of what you will do to it, or with it. And I know many pleasant things it will do to you.
- "Wherefore Wildlife Ecology?" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 337.
- We speak glibly of conservation education, but what do we mean by it? If we mean indoctrination, then let us be reminded that it is just as easy to indoctrinate with fallacies as with facts. If we mean to teach the capacity for independent judgement, then I am appalled by the magnitude of the task.
- "The Ecological Conscience" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 343.
- The direction is clear, and the first step is to throw your weight around on matters of right and wrong in land-use. Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays. That philosophy is dead in human relations, and its funeral in land-relations is overdue.
- "The Ecological Conscience" ; Published in The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, Susan L. Flader and J. Baird Callicott (eds.) 1991, p. 346.
- If we lose our wilderness, we have nothing left, in my opinion, worth fighting for; or to be more exact, a completely industrialized United States is of no consequence to me.
- letter to Wallace Grange, 3 January 1948.
- That biological jack-of-all-trades called ecologist tries to be and do all these things. Needless to say, he does not succeed.
- "The Deer Swath" ; Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 127.
- One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.
- "The Round River: A Parable" (c. 1940-48); Published in Round River, Luna B. Leopold (ed.), Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 165.
A Sand County Almanac, 1949
A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There is a collection of essays published by Oxford University Press in 1949. Reprint editions include A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River (Oxford, 1966) and A Sand County Almanac Illustrated (Tamarack Press, 1977). P. references here pertain to the 1949 edition.
- There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.
- For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.
- The whole conflict thus boils down to a question of degree. We of the minority see a law of diminishing returns in progress; our opponents do not.
- Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the aesthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.
- That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.
- But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal-clear: our bigger-and-better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy.
"January Thaw", "February: Good Oak" & "March: The Geese Return"
- There is time not only to see who has done what, but to speculate why.
- “January: January Thaw”, p. 4.
- To the mouse, snow means freedom from want and fear. … To a rough-legged hawk, a thaw means freedom from want and fear.
- “January: January Thaw”, p. 4.
- There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
- “February: Good Oak”, p. 6.
- Man brings all things to the test of himself, and this is notably true of lightning.
- “February: Good Oak”, p. 8.
- An oak is no respecter of persons.
- “February: Good Oak”, p. 9.
- In that year  John Muir offered to buy from his brother … a sanctuary for the wildflowers that had gladdened his youth. His brother declined to part with the land, but he could not suppress the idea: 1865 still stands in Wisconsin history as the birth-year of mercy for things natural, wild, and free.
- “February: Good Oak”, p. 15-16.
- One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.
- “March: The Geese Return”, p. 18.
- Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.
- “March: The Geese Return”, p. 18.
- What a dull world if we knew all about geese!
- “March: The Geese Return”, p. 20.
"April: Come High Water," "April: Draba," "April: Bur Oak," & "April:Sky Dance"
- There are degrees and kinds of solitude. … I know of no solitude so secure as one guarded by a spring flood; nor do the geese, who have seen more kinds and degrees of aloneness than I have.
- “April: Come High Water”, p. 25.
- He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowingly. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance.
- Engineers did not discover insulation: they copied it from these old soldiers of the prairie war.
- He who owns a veteran bur oak owns more than a tree. He owns a historical library, and a reserved seat in the theater of evolution. To the discerning eye, his farm is labeled with the badge and symbol of the prairie war.
- It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them.
- “April: Sky Dance”, p. 32-33.
- The drama of the sky dance is enacted nightly on hundreds of farms, the owners of which sigh for entertainment, but harbor the illusion that it is to be sought in theaters. They live on the land, but not by the land.
- “April: Sky Dance”, p. 34.
"May: Back from the Argentine," "June: The Alder Fork," "July: Great Possessions," and "July: Prairie Birthday"
- Whoever invented the word ‘grace’ must have seen the wing-folding of the plover.
- “May: Back from the Argentine”, p. 34-35.
- In farm country, the plover has only two real enemies: the gully and the drainage ditch. Perhaps we shall one day find that these are our enemies, too.
- “May: Back from the Argentine”, p. 35.
- How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time! … Even so, I think there is some virtue in eagerness, whether its object prove true or false.
- “June: The Alder Fork”, p. 39.
- One hundred and twenty acres, according to the County Clerk, is the extent of my worldly domain. But the County Clerk is a sleepy fellow, who never looks at his record books before nine o’clock. What they would show at daybreak is the question here at issue. Books or no books, it is a fact, patent both to my dog and myself, that at daybreak I am the sole owner of all the acres I can walk over. It is not only boundaries that disappear, but also the thought of being bounded.
- “July: Great Possessions”, p. 41.
- During every week from April to September there are, on the average, ten wild plants coming into first bloom. … No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. … Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.
- “July: Prairie Birthday”, p. 44.
- The erasure of a human subspecies is largely painless — to us — if we know little enough about it. A dead Chinaman is of little import to us whose awareness of things Chinese is bounded by an occasional dish of chow mein. We grieve only for what we know. The erasure of Silphium from western Dane County is no cause for grief if one knows it only as a name in a botany book.
- “July: Prairie Birthday”, p. 48.
"August: The Green Pasture," "September: The Choral Copse," "October: Smoky Gold," and "October: Red Lanterns"
- Some paintings become famous because, being durable, they are viewed by successive generations, in each of which are likely to be found a few appreciative eyes. I know a painting so evanescent that it is seldom viewed at all, except by some wandering deer. It is a river who wields the brush, and it is the same river who, before I can bring my friends to view his work, erases it forever.
- “August: The Green Pasture”, p. 51.
- It is on some, but not all, of these misty autumn day-breaks that one may hear the chorus of the quail. The silence is suddenly broken by a dozen contralto voices, no longer able to restrain their praise of the day to come.
- “September: The Choral Copse”, p. 53.
- Hunts differ in flavor, but the reasons are subtle. The sweetest hunts are stolen. To steal a hunt, either go far into the wilderness where no one has been, or else find some undiscovered place under everybody’s nose.
- “October: Smoky Gold”, p. 55.
- My dog, by the way, thinks I have much to learn about partridges, and, being a professional naturalist, I agree.
- “October: Red Lanterns”, p. 63.
"November: Axe-in-Hand," "November: A Mighty Fortress," and "December: Pines above the Snow"
- We classify ourselves into vocations, each of which either wields some particular tool, or sells it, or repairs it, or sharpens it, or dispenses advice on how to do so; by such division of labors we avoid responsibility for the misuse of any tool save our own. But there is one vocation — philosophy — which knows that all men, by what they think about and wish for, in effect wield all tools. It knows that men thus determine, by their manner of thinking and wishing, whether it is worthwhile to wield any.
- “November: Axe-in-Hand”, p. 68.
- I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land.
- “November: Axe-in-Hand”, p. 68.
- The modern dogma is comfort at any cost.
- “November: Axe-in-Hand”, p. 71.
- The real jewel of my disease-ridden woodlot is the prothonotary warbler. … The flash of his gold-and-blue plumage amid the dank decay of the June woods is in itself proof that dead trees are transmuted into living animals, and vice versa.
- “November: A Mighty Fortress”, p. 77.
- Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one.
- “December: Pines above the Snow”, p. 81.
"Wisconsin: Marshland Elegy," "Wisconsin: The Sand Counties" "Wisconsin: On a Monument to the Pigeon," and "Wisconsin: Flambeau"
- When we hear [the crane’s] call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.
- “Wisconsin: Marshland Elegy”, p. 96.
- To build a road is so much simpler than to think of what the country really needs. A roadless marsh is seemingly as worthless to the alphabetical conservationist as an undrained one was to the empire-builders. Solitude, the one natural resource still undowered of alphabets, is so far recognized as valuable only by ornithologists and cranes.
Thus always does history, whether of marsh or market place, end in paradox. The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness incarnate. But all conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.
- “Wisconsin: Marshland Elegy”, p. 101.
- Sometimes in June, when I see unearned dividends of dew hung on every lupine, I have doubts about the real poverty of the sands. On solvent farmlands lupines do not even grow, much less collect a daily rainbow of jewels.
- “Wisconsin: The Sand Counties”, p. 102.
- Our grandfathers were less well-housed, well-fed, well-clothed than we are. The strivings by which they bettered their lot are also those which deprived us of [passenger] pigeons. Perhaps we now grieve because we are not sure, in our hearts, that we have gained by the exchange. The gadgets of industry bring us more comforts than the pigeons did, but do they add as much to the glory of the spring?
- “Wisconsin: On a Monument to the Pigeon”, p. 109.
- It is a century now since Darwin gave us the first glimpse of the origin of species. We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that men are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution. This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.
- “Wisconsin: On a Monument to the Pigeon”, p. 109.
- Above all we should, in the century since Darwin, have come to know that man, while now captain of the adventuring ship, is hardly the sole object of its quest, and that his prior assumptions to this effect arose from the simple necessity of whistling in the dark.
These things, I say, should have come to us. I fear they have not come to many.
- “Wisconsin: On a Monument to the Pigeon”, p. 110.
- The elemental simplicities of wilderness travel were thrills not only because of their novelty, but because they represented complete freedom to make mistakes. … Perhaps every youth needs an occasional wilderness trip, in order to learn the meaning of this particular freedom.
- “Wisconsin: Flambeau”, p. 113.
- There are a few sections of uncut timber, luckily state-owned.
- “Wisconsin: Flambeau”, p. 115.
"Illinois and Iowa: Red Legs Kicking," "Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain,"
- When I call to mind my earliest impressions, I wonder whether the process ordinarily referred to as growing up is not actually a process of growing down; whether experience, so much touted among adults as the thing children lack, is not actually a progressive dilution of the essentials by the trivialities of living.
- “Illinois and Iowa: Red Legs Kicking”, p. 120.
"Arizona and New Mexico: On Top," & "Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain"
- On a fair morning the mountain invited you to get down and roll in its new grass and flowers (your less inhibited horse did just this if you failed to keep a tight rein). Every living thing sang, chirped, and burgeoned. Massive pines and firs, storm-tossed these many months, soaked up the sun in towering dignity. Tassel-eared squirrels, poker-faced but exuding emotion with voice and tail, told you insistently what your already knew full well: that never had there been so rare a day, or so rich a solitude to spend it in.
- “Arizona and New Mexico: On Top”, p. 125.
- It must be poor life that achieves freedom from fear.
- “Arizona and New Mexico: On Top”, p. 126.
- We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes — something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. … I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer.
- “Arizona and New Mexico: Thinking Like a Mountain”, p. 130-132.
- We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.
"Chihuahua and Sonora: The Green Lagoons"
- Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?
- This song of the waters is audible to every ear, but there is other music in these hills, by no means audible to all. To hear even a few notes of it you must first live here for a long time, and you must know the speech of hills and rivers. Then on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it—a vast pulsing harmony—its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.
- Science contributes moral as well as material blessings to the world. Its great moral contribution is objectivity, or the scientific point of view. This means doubting everything except facts; it means hewing to the facts, let the chips fall where they may.
- Education, I fear, is learning to see one thing by going blind to another.
- Barring love and war, few enterprises are undertaken with such abandon, or by such diverse individuals, or with so paradoxical a mixture of appetite and altruism, as that group of avocations known as outdoor recreation. It is, by common consent, a good thing for people to get back to nature. But wherein lies the goodness, and what can be done to encourage its pursuit?
- Only the most uncritical minds are free from doubt.
- The only true development in American recreational resources is the development of the perceptive faculty in Americans. All of the other acts we grace by that name are, at best, attempts to retard or mask the process of dilution.
- Like all real treasures of the mind, perception can be split into infinitely small fractions without losing its quality. The weeds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the redwoods; the farmer may see in his cow-pasture what may not be vouchsafed to the scientist adventuring in the South Seas.
- The trophy-recreationist has peculiarities that contribute in subtle ways to his own undoing. To enjoy he must possess, invade, appropriate. Hence the wilderness that he cannot personally see has no value to him. Hence the universal assumption that an unused hinterland is rendering no service to society. To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.
- Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind.
"Wildlife in American Culture"
- A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.
- Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.
- Relegating grizzlies to Alaska is about like relegating happiness heaven; one may never get there.
- If education really educates, there will, in time, be more and more citizens who understand that relics of the old West add meaning and value to the new. Youth yet unborn will pole up the Missouri with Lewis and Clark, or climb the Sierras with James Capen Adams, and each generation in turn will ask: Where is the big white bear? It will be a sorry answer to say he went under while conservationists weren’t looking.
- Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility.
- All history consists of successive excursions from a single starting-point, to which man returns again and again to organize yet another search for a durable scale of values.
"The Land Ethic"
- An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct. These are two definitions of one thing. The thing has its origin in the tendency of interdependent individuals or groups to evolve modes of co-operation. The ecologist calls these symbioses. Politics and economics are advanced symbioses in which the original free-for-all competition has been replaced, in part, by co-operative mechanisms with an ethical content.
- Individual thinkers since the days of Ezekiel and Isaiah have asserted that the despoliation of land is not only inexpedient but wrong. Society, however, has not yet affirmed their belief. I regard the present conservation movement as the embryo of such an affirmation.
- All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. … The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. … A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.
- Do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species.
- The ordinary citizen today assumes that science knows what makes the community clock tick; the scientist is equally sure that he does not.
- Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.
- Land-use ethics are still governed wholly by economic self-interest, just as social ethics were a century ago.
- In our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial.
- One basic weakness in a conservation system based wholly on economic motives is that most members of the land community have no economic value. Wildflowers and songbirds are examples. Of the 22,000 higher plants and animals native to Wisconsin, it is doubtful whether more than 5 per cent can be sold, fed, eaten, or otherwise put to economic use. Yet these creatures are members of the biotic community, and if (as I believe) its stability depends on its integrity, they are entitled to continuance.
- An ethic to supplement and guide the economic relation to land presupposes the existence of some mental image of land as a biotic mechanism.
- Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets. He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow. Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a ‘scenic’ area, he is bored stiff. If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well. Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the originals. In short, land is something he has ‘outgrown.’
- Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
- I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of social evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever ‘written’ … it evolves in the minds of a thinking community.
- Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching — even when doing the wrong thing is legal.
- Presumably a paraphrase of "A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct" or of "Hunting for sport is an improvement ..." above.
- (Unlikely to be by Leopold, who knew that ethics involves not only doing the right thing, but also determining the right thing in the face of competing desirable criteria.)
The pioneering conservationist advocated ecologically responsible land management before it was cool.
In the twenty tweens, one can hardly go a day without hearing about the green movement. With so much focus these days on conservation and protecting the environment, it seems obvious – we need to work to keep some areas of our world wild, in their natural state.
But this hasn’t always been so obvious. A hundred years ago, even those who worked with the wilderness – even those who called themselves conservationists – wanted to gain mastery over the land, rather than tread lightly on it. Aldo Leopold was one of the first to challenge that goal.
Born Jan. 11, 1887, in Burlington, Iowa, Aldo Leopold grew up loving the outdoors. A Mississippi River town, Burlington provided the boy with water and woods, bluffs and islands, a wealth of natural places to explore. He loved woodcraft and birding and hunting.
That might seem a little strange – that the boy who would grow up to be the father of wilderness conservation loved hunting. But hunters were the face of conservationism at that time. The focus was on making wildlands serve the needs of people. A forest could be a forest, but it would be even better if it provided us with lumber and flourishing game. So individuals, communities and governments allowed widespread clear-cutting and worked to eliminate the predators that would compete with us for game.
Leopold was a part of it, in his younger days working for the Forest Service. While stationed in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico in the 1910s and '20s, one of his duties was to hunt and kill wolves, mountain lions and bears. No one questioned the importance of killing these vicious predators: it was obvious. They attacked and killed livestock and game – they were in direct competition with humans.
In his essay “Thinking Like a Mountain,” Leopold remembered the kill that changed the way he thought. He recalled coming upon a pack of wolves with his Forest Service coworkers:
“In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.
“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes - something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
What began in that instant was Aldo Leopold’s realization of the vital importance of predators. The wolf, along with her fellow predators, was more than just a fearsome killer. She was a key part of the ecosystem around her. Remove one wolf from the wilderness, and you strike a very small blow to the balance of nature. Remove them all – as we were determined to do a hundred years ago – and you destroy the balance as surely as a wrecking ball destroys a house.
Once Leopold’s eyes were opened, he began to see all the damage we’ve done to our wilderness in the name of managing it. He found that when a population of predators is depleted or eliminated from a wildland, the animals they once hunted, notably deer in many wilderness areas, are allowed to flourish. While that might sound like a magical forest – happy, fat deer, living without any fear of the wolf’s claw, and easy pickings for human hunters – in reality it’s anything but. Those happy, fat deer eat their favorite wildflowers and shrubs to extinction, completely changing the character of the forest floor. And they breed and breed, overwhelming the area’s resources until there are more deer than the land can support and their health plummets.
Leopold saw this kind of ecosystem breakdown in action on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau, where the systematic destruction of thousands of predators led to a deer boom…and then in the following years, the deer over-browsed their favorite foods, culminating in a plummeting population of starving deer. Killing predators to create a surplus of game had backfired.
This disaster, along with other examples of land management that did more harm than good, led Leopold to formulate his concept of a land ethic. At the heart of the land ethic was this statement by Leopold: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” In other words, we must think before we act on nature: how will what we’re about to do affect the ecosystem? What kind of ripple effect will our action have – not just on the thing we’re acting on (e.g. a wolf we kill), but on all the species around it (e.g. deer, the food eaten by deer, the other species that eat that food, etc.)?
Leopold’s essay “A Land Ethic” was included in his book A Sand County Almanac, a collection of essays he had written through the years, published by his son shortly after his death. In his essays – which also include the above “Thinking Like a Mountain” excerpt – Leopold muses about his boyhood, the areas where he grew up and lived and worked, and the seasons. And he challenges conventional ideas about wildlife, urging us to find a way to live in harmony with the land. A Sand County Almanac was published to little note in 1949, but green movement trendsetters in the 1970s discovered and embraced the book and Leopold’s ideas. Today, it’s a giant of environmental writing, as important as Thoreau’s Walden or Carson’s Silent Spring.
Aldo Leopold died April 21, 1948, at the age of 61. He had seen the country and its wildlands – and the way we often mismanaged them in the name of land management. He responded throughout his life by reminding us of how very important our wilderness is, not just for itself, but for humans, too: “What avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”